In Uvalde’s first mayoral race since the shooting at Robb’s elementary schoolFormer Mayor Cody Smith took over the post Tuesday against Kimberly Mata-Rubio, a mother who has led calls for stricter gun laws since her daughter was among the 19 children killed in the attack of 2022.
The race tested the mood of the South Texas city more than a year after one of America’s deadliest mass shootings and a botched police response that still under criminal investigation. Two teachers were also killed in the attack, carried out by a teenager armed with an AR-style rifle.
Mata-Rubio, who urged Uvalde leaders for answers and transparency after the shooting, campaigned for unification of the small town that is still torn by division. Her candidacy put one of Uvalde’s most outspoken figures and an aggressive supporter of stricter gun laws on the ballot.
“I will never stop fighting for you, Lexi,” Mata-Rubio posted on X, formerly known as Twitter. “I meant it when I said this was just the beginning. After all, I’m not an ordinary mom. I’m Lexi’s mother.
Voters instead elected Smith, who served two terms as Uvalde mayor more than a decade ago. Smith, a local bank executive, last served as mayor of Uvalde in 2012. His campaign’s Facebook page called for bringing the community together but made no explicit mention of the shooting.
“We all wanted the same thing: We want this community to heal,” Smith told reporters Tuesday, according to the newspaper. San Antonio Express-News.
Smith said seeking employment again seemed like something he needed to do to help the city. He said he plans to seek input from victims’ family members, Uvalde school officials and city leaders on commemorating the 21 lives lost.
Mata-Rubio, 34, testified before Congress in support for new gun restrictions and decried the hesitant response of the police at school. She helped start a nonprofit called “Lives Robbed” that advocates for stricter gun laws.
She previously worked as a reporter for the Uvalde News-Leader, the local newspaper. His campaign signs were a bright shade of yellow, his 10-year-old daughter Lexi’s favorite color.
The campaigns reflect divisions in Uvalde between residents who say they want to move past the tragedy and others who still demand answers and accountability. A criminal investigation is still ongoing into the slow police response at Robb Elementary School, where hundreds of officers rushed to the school on May 24, 2022, but waited more than an hour before confront the shooter.
Smith will replace Mayor Don McLaughlin, who accused state police of cover-up and evasion of responsibility for failing to confront the shooter sooner, and is stepping down to run as a Republican for a seat in the Texas Legislature .
The primary school campus is now permanently closed. Last month, the city broke ground on a new school in Uvalde.